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BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2013 Jul 27;13:78. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-13-78.

No personalization without participation: on the active contribution of psychiatric patients to the development of a mobile application for mental health.

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Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal - affiliated to University of Montreal, 7401, Hochelaga St, Montreal, QC H1N 3M5, Canada.



Despite the increasing pervasiveness of mobile computational technologies, knowledge about psychiatric patients' preferences regarding the design and utility of mobile applications is very poor. This paper reports on a pilot-study that involved 120 psychiatric patients in the development of a mobile application (app) that is being used for data entry into the Signature Project data bank at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal (IUSMM), Canada. Participants were invited to comment on the 'look and feel' of the Signature App. Their input also extended the procedures for data collection. These suggestions may contribute to increased mental health literacy and empowerment of persons with mental illness receiving services at the IUSMM.


Participants were recruited to fill out a questionnaire on a tablet computer while waiting at the Emergency Room (ER, n = 40), Psychotic Disorders outpatient clinic (n = 40) or Anxiety and Mood Disorders outpatient clinic (n = 40) of IUSMM. Nine patients from each of these sub-groups participated in a focus group to review the results and to discuss how the design and use of the Signature App could be improved to better meet the needs of patients.


This study (n = 120) indicated that psychiatric patients are clearly capable of using a tablet computer to fill out questionnaires for quantitative data entry, and that they enjoyed this experience. Results from the focus groups (n = 27) highlight that the app could also be used by patients to communicate some personal and contextual qualitative information. This would support a holistic and person-centered approach, especially at the ER where people acutely need to describe their recent history and receive emotional support.


This pilot-study has confirmed the necessity of involving patients not only in the testing of a new mobile application, but also as active contributors in the entire research and development process of a person-centered information and communication technology infrastructure. The input of participants was essential in designing the Signature Project computational procedure and making use of the app a positive and empowering experience. Participants also gave critical feedback remarks that went beyond the initial scope of the pilot-study, for example they suggested the addition of a client-clinician component.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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